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ON POINT: Doctor's take on omicron variant of COVID-19, spread of virus in S. Korea Updated: 2021-11-29 05:35:49 KST

Now it’s time for On Point, where we speak to experts to delve deeper into the biggest news stories in the spotlight right now.
A new variant of COVID-19, now dubbed the omicron variant, was detected in South Africa last week and has since spread to numerous countries.
The news sparked fresh fears, caused stock markets to tank and triggered new international travel restrictions to try and limit the spread.
It’s expected to take researchers some time to understand omicron, but the WHO has already labeled it a “variant of concern.”
This means it could be more transmissible, more virulent, or more able to evade the protection granted by the vaccines we currently have.
This is all the more concerning as new cases continue to rise in South Korea - along with the number of critically-ill.
So, officials are probing the idea of re-introducing tougher restrictions today.
For more, we connect to Doctor Alice Tan, Internist at MizMedi Women’s Hospital in Seoul.
Good morning, Doctor Tan. It’s still early, but what do we know so far about the omicron variant?

Scientists say omicron has a “very unusual constellation of mutations.” This may help it bypass our immune systems, make it more transmissible and less treatable. Are you concerned this strain could make current vaccines ineffective if it becomes the dominant strain?

What steps do you think the South Korean government will take as part of its an emergency response plan that’ll be announced in the coming hours? And what steps have been taken to stop the omicron variant entering the country?

Finally, late last week South Korea’s health minister said many elderly are still becoming critically-ill despite being fully vaccinated, with winter almost upon us, how worried should we be that South Korea’s healthcare system will become overloaded?

Doctor Tan, as always, we are grateful for your insights and thanks for joining us.
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